The Governor of Illinois has given me a whole new meaning to Valentine’s Day. Today at 4:10 pm CTS Governor Pat Quinn signed Erin’s law. I knew early this morning he was signing it today.
A year ago February 10th I spoke in a small town called Dixon, Illinois for a child abuse conference. It was there for the first time I spoke about my vision for Erin’s Law and how I had reached out in letters to all state senators. After speaking the chief of police of Dixon approached me and said he wants to help. Two months later I was meeting with Senator Tim Bivins of Dixon. As I sat in the Senators office with the chief of police I shared my ideas of what this law would look like. A week later the Senator drafted the law into a bill. It was the start of a journey that would bring a vision of mine for years to life. In May I testified to the Senate where SB2843 was passed with all yes votes, in November I testified again at the Capital to the House where Erin’s law was passed again with all yes votes. Today February 14th, 2011 Governor Quinn signed Erin’s law making it official. Now myself and 14 other members of a task force will get to work to find the best curriculum for the children of Illinois to be educated on sexual abuse in the schools. A message that never came in my childhood. This year long process was just the beginning. The real work will begin now and I am now ready to bring this silent epidemic to our nations attention to educate the children in every state. What is so crazy about the timing of this is a year to nearly the day I spoke in the small town 80 miles from me in Dixon, IL I am returning tomorrow to speak at and update them on what happened after I spoke at their child abuse conference.
In an entry out of my diary and published in my first book Stolen Innocence mentioning as a 12 year old how we are not taught in schools about sexual abuse.
April, 1997 9:35 P.M.
It wasn’t a dream. What happened at Grandma and Grandpa’s condo seven months ago in fact did happen. It happened again today. but this time I wasn’t sleeping. I was fully awake and alert. I’m so scared right now. My eyes are filled with tears and I don’t know whom to turn to. I was babysitting Brian’s younger brothers David and Jake. My Aunt Mary was going to the store for groceries. She told me she would be gone an hour. I began playing “hide and go seek” with David and Jake like I do most of the time when I baby sit. Brian came home when David was counting. I was about to hide when Brian told me he had an excellent hiding spot. He told me to follow behind him. I didn’t think once about what happened in Wisconsin. I tried blocking that all out back when it happened. I followed Brian downstairs to the basement to a door, which brought us to this storage area where you had to crawl. Brian climbed up and then helped me. There was a lot of stored items down there. Brian grabbed blankets and told me to hide under them. I went under the blankets by myself. About a minute or two later Brian crawled over and was under the blankets with me. I was a little nervous when he got under the blankets. I could hear David upstairs walking around looking for us. Brian slowly started to touch me. I didn’t say anything at first, but then he started to get aggressive by putting his mouth on mine and trying to kiss me. I tried pushing him off, but he then just got on top of me and he is twice my size. He lay on top of me and started to touch me. Slipping his hands down my pants and all I wanted to do was cry. Over and over I asked him to please stop. I was terrified and couldn’t believe what was happening to me. His hands slipping down my pants and up my shirt. His heart pounding against mine. We then heard David opening the door to the storage area. Brian told me to get quiet. I wanted to scream, but didn’t want David to see what was happening. I heard David turn around and make his way back upstairs while Brian continued to touch me. It went on until we heard my Aunt’s high heels on the tile floor above us coming in. Brian quickly made his way to exit and left me by myself. I came up a few minutes later where I saw David sitting with Jake watching cartoons. David looked at me and said, “Where were you this whole time?” I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t say anything at all. My aunt paid me and I walked home. The whole way home I sobbed. Over and over in my head I thought about what just happened.
In school we had a guy called Officer Friendly come in and teach us about stranger danger. Never to answer the door when your parents aren’t home. Never talk to strangers. I thought people like Brian jumped out of bushes at night and attacked you. I was never warned about my own family. They don’t teach you that in school.
At dinner I didn’t say much. I was too upset, but tried not to show it. Mom noticed I seemed down and asked what was wrong. I told her it was nothing but she thought it had to with my eyes. I am laying here on my bed in almost complete darkness except for my night light that gives off enough light for me to write. I don’t think I will be getting much sleep tonight. I’m really scared! I just want to wake up from this horrible nightmare. This can’t be happening. I feel so alone and confused. I just want it to stop! -Erin
Fast Forward November 2009 out of my second book Living For Today
My voice is the force behind the change I want to see in the world. I am no longer silent but calling the world to move in a new direction that will no longer mark survivors of sexual abuse with stigma and shame but with empowerment and justice. I want mandatory Safe Touch programs as part of every schools’ educational goals.
I see many possibilities ahead of me. I have many visions for my future mapped out but with one ultimate purpose: I want to see legislation passed that requires all children in public schools across America to be taught safety lessons in a child friendly manner in which children will learn how to say no, speak up, and know who to go to if someone uses unwanted touches. I am not aware of any law that requires children to be taught this.
Looking back on the past year of not all but a lot of the media coverage Erin’s Law SB2843 has received.
Full Text of Erin’s Law
Erin Merryn on Oprah http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxOUMbj8Egw
Erin Merryn talking to Oprah about Erin’s Law http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3RSTm-asvA&feature=related
Erin Merryn named newsmaker of the year beating even American Idol winner Lee DeWyze ABC7 Morning News http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5nHRY0fLEA&feature=player_embedded
Daily Herald Newsmaker of the Year 2010 http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101226/news/712269921/
Chicago Tribune Dec. 2010 Erin’s Law
Daily Herald Erin’s Law Right For Illinois, Country http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101206/discuss/712069873/
Daily Herald Erin’s Law Goes to Quinn http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101204/news/712059871/
Daily Herald Article Erin’s Law closer to reality http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101121/news/711229867/